In Praise of Vaporizers (and other health-related stuff)

Who’d’a thunk it? A vaporizer has kept us out of the hospital—twice.

 Every source we’ve consulted about respiratory distress says to use a cool mist vaporizer, but somehow we’ve always hemmed and hawed and generally procrastinated about it. There’s the potential for mess. And the parenting books, which say they’re a health hazard of their own because of mold growing. I don’t really know why we never got it out before. All I know is, last week when Julianna woke up wheezing, I went to the web and there it was again: Vaporizer. So I went upstairs and got the thing out. Of course, I was in a rush, so I put it together wrong and sprayed mist all over the CD player instead of out into the room. But Christian discovered my error and fixed it an hour later, and I’ll be darned if that girl never had a Night Three of croup.

Two nights ago, there it was again: stridor breathing in the mid dle of the night, and a little girl who was really scared. It was worse this time. I plugged the vaporizer back in…and this time we didn’t even have a Night Two! I am convinced!

I’ve always been one of those people who rolls their eyes about health scares. I believed then—and I believe now—that kids need to get sick. I have no patience with antibacterial soap. I think daily baths for little ones is over the top. Kids need to be exposed to bugs so that their immune systems can build up, and all antibacterials are doing is encouraging resistant bacteria. Better to get a little sick now and stave off the super bugs.

But May moderated my rhetoric. One brush with death could have been a fluke. She was a newborn, after all. But the second established a pattern that, as a mother, I cannot ignore. The flu is not something we want to experience in our house. And so it was that two weeks ago I took the kids to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu. (We’re still waiting to get access to the H1N1 inoculation.)

Alex was deathly afraid of getting a shot. We practiced by poking each other with pins, but it didn’t really help. He did not want that shot. I promised him that if the doctor said it was okay, he could have the “mist.”

Well, the mist is a live virus, you know, and Christian is adamant that we are not giving any such thing to Julianna, whose immune system is weak. “The rest of you can do whatever you want,” he said, “but Julianna is getting the shot.”

But, I said, if the rest of us got a live virus vaccine, wouldn’t we be breathing live viruses on her anyway?

“Good point,” Christian said, and we agreed that I would ask the doctor.

Well, the doctor hemmed and hawed for a while. The CDC says it really doesn’t make a difference…yada yada…but it would probably be safer to get the shots…maybe, probably, possibly…she wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Finally I asked, “If this was your family, what would you do?”

She raised her eyebrows and shrugged. “Well…do the kids keep their distance from each other, generally? Or is there a lot of breathing on each other?”

 And all I could think of was this:

Oh yes, we keep our distance...(NOT!)

“Uh…” I said, “Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of breathing on each other.”

We all got shots.